Fight Film Friday: Sucker Punch

Posted: March 26, 2011 in fight film friday
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Sucker Punch
USA, 2011
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Adventure
109 minutes

A troubled young woman escapes the grim realities of her life using the fantastic worlds within her own mind.

In what can be considered the epitome of director Zack Snyder’s current style, Sucker Punch is a difficult film to weigh in on. For better or worse, it completely embodies Snyder’s favored aesthetics, and feels completely at peace with what it is trying to be. Visually, the production design and art style are absolutely fantastic. The CGI elements aren’t at Avatar levels of detail and realism, but the slightly surreal look works well for the pseudo-video game effect that Snyder seems to be shooting for. The non-fantasy elements are also gorgeous, using a grand, larger-than-life saturation of color and style to fit the themes of each setting. It helps that every scene is beautifully composed and shot, proving once again that frequent collaborator Larry Fong knows his way around a camera. Adding to the visual flair is a crack team of sound designers and musicians adding weight behind all action on screen. The score is incredible, perfectly fitting the kick ass feel of the epic journey. Without a doubt, this is definitively Zack Snyder’s kind of movie.

While far from perfect, I have to admit that I was surprised by Snyder’s script. Co-written with a certain Steve Shibuya, this is far from the mindless testosterone fest that people were expecting. The story is a little clunky and the pacing is a bit off as it suddenly shifts gears into the third act, but there’s a great deal to be impressed by. It’s about as subtle as a boot to the face, but there are definitely a number of layers to unravel once you get past the basic premise. Our heroines do fairly well with the material in hand, but the ladies aren’t exactly sitting on a wealth of acting talent or experience. Jena Malone’s Rocket stands above the rest with the most endearing and engaging performance of the leads, along with Oscar Isaac and Scott Glenn in supporting roles, all three of whom were clearly having a good time with the production.

For all the other issues with his movies, one thing that Snyder has no problems doing is filming great action sequences. The scenes are wonderfully shot with just enough space to give the performers room to breathe, all while staying close enough to keep the audience engaged in the fight. He does have a tendency to abuse the slow-motion dial, but it’s become a pretty integral part of what makes up his flavor of film making. Equally impressive is that the fights are amazingly well choreographed, as opposed to just sticking the actors in front of a green screen and filling in the CGI bad guys later. Even if the enemies aren’t the best looking digital figures, they move and feel every bit like physical beings, adding a level of impact and investment I honestly wasn’t expecting with computer effects. Like our main heroine, Sucker Punch is raw and unpolished, but really that’s part of its charm. If you can learn to let go and just enjoy the ride, this is definitely a film that will surprise you.

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